Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Who Is It?

A powerful idea in popular fiction is the clandestine organization run by a mysterious masked or anonymous figure whose face and identity may or may not be revealed in the concluding episode of a series. (There are a couple of good guys whose faces we never see: the Lone Ranger and Judge Dredd - except when the latter was played by Sylvester Stallone.)

In Poul Anderson's The Long Way Home (St Albans, Herts, 1975):

the Terrestrial Technate is, we are told, run by a computer, the Technon, which is not seen until maybe near the end of the novel;

the human colonials of the League of Alpha Centauri are secretly controlled by the concealed inhabitants of a Jovoid planet in one of the Centaurian planetary systems;

the interstellar traders of the Commercial Society are controlled at a distance by concealed bureaucrats whom they never see - recruits into the bureaucracy simply disappear.

Anderson is (almost) overdoing the idea of the mysterious, secretive leadership. We are free to speculate, for example, whether the Technon really controls the Society and whether it has any covert dealings with the real rulers of Alpha Centauri but the only way to find out is to continue reading.

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